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At Gibbons: a place for thinkers and makers

High school dedicates new academic wing for students exploring arts, science, engineering

Archbishop Thomas Wenski blesses the Smith Family Building at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, April 21, 2021.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski blesses the Smith Family Building at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, April 21, 2021.

FORT LAUDERDALE | The new Smith Family Building at Cardinal Gibbons High School has made it possible for the administration to add another period to the school day so that students can take an additional elective class.

“The new building will allow students to take elective classes in areas that they are interested in,” said Erin Herbert, the school’s marketing and communications specialist, during a ribbon-cutting and unveiling ceremony held April 21, 2021.

The new 15,000-square-foot academic wing on the 18-acre campus will offer students new opportunities to develop and hone their skills in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, or STEAM.

Shaun Smith-Myers, Cardinal Gibbons class of '89, and Charlie Myers pose in front of the Phil Smith Family Building after the name was unveiled, April 21, 2021.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Shaun Smith-Myers, Cardinal Gibbons class of '89, and Charlie Myers pose in front of the Phil Smith Family Building after the name was unveiled, April 21, 2021.

The Phil and Susan Smith Family Foundation was the biggest donor to the $4.3 million structure that bears their name. Shawn Smith-Myers, ’89, and her husband, Charlie Myers, attended the event. Their children, James Smith, ’14, and Kailen Kelley, ’19, graduated from Gibbons. The Smith family has pledged millions of dollars to education and healthcare institutions in South Florida.

“Cardinal Gibbons was great for my children,” said Susan Smith-Meyers. “I expect the school to be great for my grandchildren.”

“This gift from the Smith family will provide a venue for our students to explore the possibility of becoming tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, artists and performers,” said Paul Ott, former Gibbons principal who attended the ribbon-cutting. “We anticipate great things from our kids as they grow and develop in this enhanced environment.”

The building features a Maker Space Genius Room or Think Lab — dedicated space for students to plan, explore, design and collaborate with other innovators. Students who have planned their projects in the Genius Room can employ their knowledge of physics and engineering to bring their ideas to life in the Maker Space Workshop or Engineering Lab.

In addition, the new building includes a television production studio, new musical performance facilities, electronic music lab and a financial technology room or FinTech lab. Students will learn about economics, business, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, crowdfunding, robo-advising and peer-to-peer lending. A stock ticker will surround the room to display the daily stocks and news.

Students who have worked on a big project in the Genius Room can take their project outdoors through a garage door.

“Whether it’s a small rocket or an electric car, the sky’s the limit,” said Oscar Cedeno, principal of the 1,175-student school in northeast Fort Lauderdale.

Exterior view of the new Smith Family Building at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, which Archbishop Thomas Wenski dedicated April 21, 2021.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Exterior view of the new Smith Family Building at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, which Archbishop Thomas Wenski dedicated April 21, 2021.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who was on hand for the ribbon-cutting, called the new building a testimony of hope, because the archdiocese is still investing in brick-and-mortar schools during a time of virtual learning. He commended Catholic education.

“Other schools teach to the test, Catholic schools teach to the yes,” he said. “Yes to God. We are about forming men and women for the future. Catholic education is trying to convey the whole truth of the Catholic faith. Catholic schools are a good amenity to the community.”

How can parents afford to send their kids to Catholic schools, the archbishop asked. “Catholic education pays off,” he answered. “Cardinal Gibbons students have shown how that investment paid off. Add up all the college scholarships. The scholarships more than pay off for a primary and secondary Catholic education.”

The new building was made with love, said Cassidy Gordon, 17, student government president. “The Smith family made this new wing the best that it could be,” she said.

Gibbons junior Isabella Archila, 17, said that she is interested in industrial engineering and classes in the new building will give her a taste of a field she may want to pursue.

“Engineering needs more women,” she said. “I’ll now have an opportunity to learn about industrial engineering.”

Cutting the ribbon to open the new Smith Family Building at Cardinal Gibbons High School, from left: Thomas Mahon, school president; Jack Seiler, member of the school's steering committee and former Fort Lauderdale mayor; Paul Ott, former school principal; donors Shaun Smith-Myers, Gibbons class of '89, and her husband, Charlie Myers; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; and Oscar Cedeno, Gibbons principal. The ceremony took place April 21, 2021.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Cutting the ribbon to open the new Smith Family Building at Cardinal Gibbons High School, from left: Thomas Mahon, school president; Jack Seiler, member of the school's steering committee and former Fort Lauderdale mayor; Paul Ott, former school principal; donors Shaun Smith-Myers, Gibbons class of '89, and her husband, Charlie Myers; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; and Oscar Cedeno, Gibbons principal. The ceremony took place April 21, 2021.


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